The Angeles City lady judge handling the criminal cases involving the 2016 abduction and killing of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo has granted the plea of the Department of Justice that she inhibits from further hearing the case.
In a ruling, Judge Irin Zenaida Buan of Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 56 recused herself from hearing the cases for kidnapping for ransom with homicide, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and carnapping. She was the second judge who inhibited from trying the case in the past two years.
The DOJ prosecutors earlier accused Buan as “biased” for Police Lieutenant Colonel Rafael Dumlao III, one of the three accused, for allowing him to post bail despite a witness testimony that he was the “instigator” of the crime.
At the same time, the judge denied bail to SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel and Jerry Omlang. Roy Villegas, another policeman, was discharged as state witness in January 2018.
Buan initially denied the prosecution’s first motion for inhibition. But the DOJ was prompted to file for another by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento.
“To insist on trying these cases despite a continuing call for recusal will already conjure an erroneous image of a judge holding on to a case under a continuous cloud of doubt,” Buan said, in his September 2 order.
“To the mind of the Presiding Judge, this is counterproductive because no matter how regular the exercise of judgment or discretion is done, the same cannot dissuade the movants from their belief that the Presiding Judge is biased,” the lady judge added.
The case will be reraffled to another judge following Buan’s recusal.
Prior to Buan, the judge who first handled the case, Judge Irineo Pangilinan, Jr., also voluntarily inhibited in March 2018 after his impartiality was questioned after declaring Villegas as a state witness.
Although he denied prejudging the case, Buan said that she recused herself to “remove any doubt” in the decisions of the court.
The case stemmed from the Oct. 18, 2016 abduction of Jee and his househelp from his Angeles City home by armed men allegedly pretending to be carrying out an anti-drug operation.
He was reportedly strangled to death inside the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City on the same day.